The Milwaukee Brewers hold many prospects, but they are not ready to make a big push in 2018.
The Milwaukee Brewers soared to an 86-win season last year. Milwaukee actually led its division most of the first half. However, a push by the Chicago Cubs after the All-Star Break sent the Brewers home for the postseason. The young club managed to win enough games to fall just one short of making the playoffs as a Wild Card.
Because of this success, fans want the team to start their run for the World Series now. General Manager David Stearns, however, didn’t make a substantial roster move during the Winter Meetings.
The fans want more from him and are hanging on every rumor of a possible major acquisition. Meanwhile, Stearns looks like he is content to let the market fall to him without risking a rushed deal. A more ‘big picture’ look at the organization might give a better idea of Stearns’ current mentality.
Milwaukee Brewers: Starting Pitchers
Most fans want the Brewers to make a move this off season to address the team’s starting rotation weakness. The Crew’s number one pitcher, Jimmy Nelson, will miss a good portion of 2018.
“We also have a lot of confidence in the development of our own pitching. […] We have a number of young pitchers coming. So, the foundation of our rotation going forward is going to be home-grown, developing pitchers from within,” Stearns said at the Winter Meetings.
Then again, so did the 2017 Opening Day rotation of Guerra, Davies, Nelson, Anderson and Peralta with Matt Garza looming on the disabled list. Some fans would argue the 2018 rotation looks better on paper than the 2017 one with Peralta and Garza.
Milwaukee owns team control over Nelson, who the Brewers will miss for much of 2018, and Anderson through 2020. Furthermore, they control Davies and Woodruff for even longer.
Those four starters have major league experience and look like they could be legitimate pieces to build around while others make it through the system.
The team could make a move now to bolster this squad if it gets a favorable deal, but they do not have to. If bullpen sensation and 2017 breakthrough prospect Josh Hader converts to a starter after increasing his control, he could be a future piece.
The Milwaukee Brewers have some minor league depth at this position. The pitchers on their 15 best prospects list include: (3) Luis Ortiz, (7) Corbin Burnes, (11) Freddy Peralta, and (15) Marcos Diplan.
Milwaukee’s organization holds a few other intriguing arms in its top 30. Any one of these pitchers and a few others could be a key piece to a future Brewers championship.
Despite popular belief, the team looks good at this position. It could become a beacon of talent directly for the team and/or a slew of great trade chips very soon.
Milwaukee Brewers: Bullpen
Closer Corey Knebel earned 39 saves for the Brewers in 2017. Perhaps even more flashy, he accounted for a K/9 of 14.92. For perspective, popular New York Yankees 100 MPH throwing closer known for his strikeouts Aroldis Chapman averaged 12.34 K/9 in 2017.
Previously mentioned Josh Hader became a Brewers fan-favorite last season by dominating out of the pen. He may or may not be back in those duties for the 2018 season.
Beyond that is very murky for Milwaukee. Jacob Barnes and Jeremy Jeffress have live arms. However, Barnes fell off last year, and Jeffress remains a big question mark after looking bad everywhere but Milwaukee in recent years.
Others on the depth chart did not fair well last season. Oliver Drake comes to mind. Was the pen just overworked? Perhaps.
The team has already lost out on several of the top setup men who signed to teams early this winter. The Brewers need more dominant arms for their bullpen or 2018 will be a difficult one for fans. Relievers will be overworked again, and that leads to bad outings.
Milwaukee Brewers: Offense
In 2017, the Brewers led the league in home runs and steals, but they also had the worst strikeout percentage in the league. The team tied for tenth in the NL in runs scored. Maturing young players will hopefully cut down on some of the strikeouts for 2018 and going forward.
Milwaukee played well offensively last season despite an off-year from Ryan Braun and a big fall-off from Jonathan Villar. Villar led the league in stolen bases in 2016 and was supposed to take over second base.
Milwaukee Brewers: Up the Middle
Stearns knows he has to “take a long look”at second base during this off season. The team has hot prospects here though.
Milwaukee drafted Keston Hiura in 2017 and he quickly became the third best second base prospect in all of Major League Baseball.
The Brewers also have Isan Diaz and Mauricio Dubon making headways through the organization’s minor leagues. Those players rank in the Brewers top ten prospect list and can also play shortstop. The Brewers will only need help at shortstop if Big League starter Orlando Arcia gets injured.
Brewers fans want someone with more major league experience heading into 2018. That being said, the Brewers do have organizational depth at second base. Adding a young player such as Kansas City Royals’ Whit Merrifield would be nice, but the need is not too pressing in the long run.
Milwaukee Brewers: Outfielders
Talented young outfielders roam throughout the Brewers organization. Some, such as Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton established themselves last season. Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson are ready for a shot at consistent big league at-bats in 2018.
Furthermore, many lurk in the Brewers Top 30 Prospects list such as: (2) Corey Ray, (8) Tristen Lutz, (13) Trent Grisham, and (14) Monte Harrison just to name a few. Stearns has shopped Santana because of the organization’s depth at that position.
Milwaukee Brewers: On the Corners
However, Shaw still needs to prove he can be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter for consecutive seasons. Also, Thames needs to establish the ability to play a full season at a consistent level. Last season, he compiled a 1.276 OPS in April but just .691 OPS in August.
On the farm, the Brewers do not have the type of standout talent at first base that they do in the outfield. At third base, however, the team has Lucas Erceg. Erceg ranks as the team’s number ten prospect and could be the guy for the future.
With Erceg making his way up in the minors, the Brewers could move Shaw to first base. That, or possibly even moving Braun to first base to help unclog the jam in the outfield.
“If they want me to play first, if it’s something that’s going to help our team at any point, whether it’s just for a few of games depending on what our personnel may be, I’m not opposed to it by any means. If they approach me with that, I’m open to it,” Braun said in a radio interview in October of 2017.
One of these moves could lead to the Brewers shopping Thames. Many of the more analytically-minded teams such as the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros covet power hitters that accumulate many bases on balls like Thames.
Milwaukee Brewers: Behind the Plate
Catcher is another weak spot in the Brewers system. The team made what looks like a bad trade when they sent Khris Davis to the Oakland A’s for catcher prospect Jacob Nottingham. Nottingham has not impressed like the Brewers had hoped.
The Milwaukee Brewers still have time to strengthen their weak spots and deal from areas of strength. There are a lot of reasons to get excited for the 2018 Brew Crew, but there are still a lot of moves to occur. The current depth chart will have a few names added and removed before Opening Day. The fans are the ones who have to stay patient for now.